By Scott Bigelow
Band Director Dr. John Wakefield of the University of Maryland introduces the 2004 UNCP Honor Band, comprised of students from more than 55 schools in the region.
The sound of music filled the air at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke on March 13 as more than 200 middle and high school students participated in the 28th annual UNCP Honor Band.
After six hours of practice, the two bands performed an evening concert at the Givens Performing Arts Center (GPAC). The senior high band played under the direction of Dr. John Wakefield, Director of Bands at the University of Maryland.
The young musicians were challenged by a great director, said Professor Tim Altman, coordinator for the UNCP Honor Band.
"Dr. Wakefield has been directing bands for 39 years and is a highly respected conductor and clinician," Altman said. "It was an opportunity for young musicians to work with a conductor who is known throughout the nation."
Angie Vann (right) and her daughter, April, who is a Union Middle School student, discuss a piece of music with Union Middle and High School Band Director Curt Collins.
"I was thrilled with the day," Altman said. "I have never had so many band directors compliment the Honor Band students on their focus and motivation. They were into it!"
The middle school band was directed by Coats-Erwin Middle School Band Director Robin Gorham and Overhills Middle School Band Director Mark Mabe. Drawn from 55 schools in the region, the students performed more music in the final program than ever in the event's 28-year history, Altman said.
Angie Vann brought her daughter, Union Middle School student April Vann. She was inspired.
"This is good," Vann said. "He (Dr. Wakefield) cares about what he does, and it rubs off on the children. My daughter is loving it."
Fayetteville Academy Junior Eve Greene said playing with an Honor Band takes young musicians out of their comfort zone.
Fayetteville Academy student Eve Greene and her mother, Katharyn, relax in the GPAC lobby after a day of practice.
"It's different than playing in our school band," Greene said. "You experience playing with really good players. It's challenging, and the sound is great with so many players in this auditorium."
The Honor Band's objective is to benefit every player and every band program in the region. All middle and high schools in the region had an opportunity to bring four musicians.
"It's a good event for some of our better students," said Magnolia Middle School Band Director Mike McConnell. "It's an opportunity to work with an outstanding director, read new music and learn something from other talented players."
Some of the most talented young musicians, like 71st High School trumpet player Earl Richardson and East Bladen High School French horn player Mallory Kwiatkowski, competed in solo auditions for UNCP music scholarships.
"I like it," Richardson said. "If they are trying to get people to come here; yeah, it's working."
Richardson plans to attend UNCP in the fall, and Kwiatkowski said she auditioned at several universities this semester.
71st High School student Earl Richardson waits for this solo audition.
"This makes me a better player," she said. "It's humbling, but I'm pleased with the way I played."
Altman said all players and schools benefit from the Honor Band experience.
"Honor Band attracts students of all levels from all levels of programs," Altman said. "I believe the weaker programs benefit the most from exposure to high quality music and instruction."
The event also featured a director's band and two clinics for band directors to brush up on their skills. Instructed by Tracy Wiggins and Janita Byars, of the Music Department faculty, the clinics were a new addition to the day.
"The directors get to know our faculty better, and we get to know them," Altman said. "We will definitely offer the clinics next year."
East Bladen High School student Mallory Kwiatkowski was pleased with her audition.
Lumberton Junior High Band Director Mike Ward said reading new music during the director's band was a good experience, and he said the clinics were helpful.
"It was very nice that Tim Altman offered master classes in reeds and percussion," Ward said. "Band directors forget some of these techniques."
Ward said the day was a success, and he praised the work of UNCP's music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha. The student organization greeted and mingled with Honor Band participants during a pizza luncheon on the lawn.
"This was good for UNCP students to help out and show off the University," Ward said. "Many of them will be band directors one day."
"This is a great way to spend a Saturday," he said. "I'd rather do this than anything I can think of."
When the students put it all together in the evening program, each player performed in his or her school's band uniform.
"The collage of different uniforms from all over the region was a sight to see," Altman said. "It doesn't get any better than this."